Dear Readers - Today, it’s about emotional abuse.
The reason? When there’s a flurry of responses to a relationship issue that’s been mentioned in this column, we see how prevalent and painful some issues are. Fortunately, we also see how others have handled these difficult issues.
Reader – “My husband didn’t shout, swear or outwardly display anger, instead he sulked. He was a quiet “smolderer” who radiated negative waves.
“I was lucky to have a profession and friends who gave me the validation I needed to (mostly) maintain my self-esteem. But his constant negative comments lowered my overall confidence.
“Yet he did stuff with the kids and as a family, etc.
“I saw two different therapists during the divorce, as he’d told me I had a personality defect. One asked, “Have you always been a helper?” (I’m a nurse - so, I have). The other told me “You’ve been protecting him for years.”
“Yes, I was always making excuses to myself and to the kids for his bad moods. The therapist also said, “A leopard doesn’t change it’s spots.”
“Even vacations were somewhat stressful. He criticized everything - too many shoes on the shoe mat, a knife left on the counter, my family, our friends all had something wrong with them, he constantly was at the kids about something.
“The oldest suffered the least. But since my husband got worse with age, the youngest got the worst of the negativity. He told me a couple years later that his Dad’s leaving us was the best thing that happened to him or he “would’ve turned into a scared, insecure, person.”
“The older child had a thicker skin and could ignore her father.
“He made negative comments when I visited my family who lived five-hours’ drive away. He became increasingly less social. His unkindness became more evident.
“Although I never thought I would leave, I lost all respect and love.
“He sensed this and sought someone else to prop up his ego. He left. I was almost overwhelmed by the thought of remaking my life at 51. However, “Life is wonderful now. I’ve remarried, although I didn’t rush.
“My biggest regrets: I didn’t realize the negative effects on the children. I allowed him to distance me from my family. I twisted my “self” into a different person to keep peace.
“I fear that my son, unfortunately, still has some underlying insecurities.
“My Ex married his “affair partner” (actually a nice woman) as soon as he could after the divorce, before she really had a chance to see his true personality or clue in to the “signs.” In the years since, I’ve heard through the grapevine that he has not changed.
“Tell your letter-writer to “Run, not Walk” to the nearest exit. Or the damage to the children will be far greater than their parents’ separating.”
Reader #2 - “I lived with an emotionally abusive wife for decades before leaving.
“Since then, I’ve done a lot of therapy and reading. Some words that rang true for me: Abused spouses are "addicted to potential."
“My abuser was very charming initially, and then convinced me that I was being mistreated because of something I had done.
“So, we abused spend the rest of our marriages trying to do all the right stuff - and treating our abusers like royalty - in hopes that we’ll see that initial charm again.
“The reality is that all we’ll get are fleeting glimpses. Most abusers will always be abusers.”
I’m 33 and now living on the same street as a man who tried to sexually assault me when we were both 14. I fended him off, but he told false rumours that he “did it” with me, which caused me to be pestered for sex and nearly assaulted several times during my high-school years.
I’m now married with a child, haven’t seen him since, but was recently greeted by a new neighbour saying she’s so-and-so (his wife!) and wanting to become friends! I’m sure she knows nothing of how he made my teenage years miserable. How do I handle this situation? I never want to see him again!
Be polite but distant. You don’t know if he’s an abusive adult and/or if he’s abusive in some way with her. If she ever reveals this, tell her what happened, advise her to get counselling, and to leave him if he doesn’t change.
Tip of the day:
Repeated emotional abuse can destroy a marriage, drive families apart and scar the children.